The Production Co. at the Chandler Studio Theatre has carved another notch in its belt for excellent theatre with its production of “Equus,” Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning meditation on the price of what we call “sanity.” Shaffer, whose other best-known work “Amadeus” dealt with God’s voice ringing through the music of Mozart, again searches for deity, and finds it in an English stable.
Jim Hanna plays Dr. Martin Dysart, a middle-aged, worn-out psychiatrist faced with the daunting task of figuring out why a young man (Patrick Stafford) who seemingly worshipped horses would commit the horrific crime of blinding six of them in one night with a sharp metal object. Dysart, mired in a crisis of faith regarding himself, his abilities, his marriage and even the validity of his profession, is forced to confront a boy who “sucked the sweat from his God’s hairy cheek” in a series of secretive midnight rides.
Stafford absolutely nails the baleful stare and haunted persona of the troubled boy in an emotionally and physically challenging performance. The supporting players are uniformly solid, particularly the boy’s hypocritical, meddlesome parents (Skip Pipo and Karen Furno). With the help of equestrian consultant Kelly Graham, horses (played by Michael Rachlis, Aaron Misakian and John Joyce III) are brought to life on the Chandler’s tiny stage with eerie grace. As the catalyst in the tragedy, Lauren Schneider is an appropriately playful, restless would-be girlfriend. This is Dysart’s story, though, and under August Viverito’s taut direction, Hanna scales the heights of a shattering conclusion to this intriguing mystery. Highly recommended.
“Equus” runs Fridays through Sundays at the Chandler Studio Theatre (12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91607). Tickets are $20-$25. For information, call (800) 838-3006 or go to www.theprodco.com. Please note that the play contains adult themes and nudity.